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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

The most essential pieces of paperwork you’ll need in Switzerland

Almost everything you do in Switzerland requires a pile of documents. This is what you will need to start with when you settle here.

The most essential pieces of paperwork you’ll need in Switzerland
You need health insurance in Switzerland. Photo by HANNAH MCKAY / POOL / AFP

Despite its notoriously high cost of living, Switzerland’s natural beauty, strong economy, and quality of life are a magnet for foreign residents. But it’s not all easy when you get here. 

You may have heard horror stories about Switzerland’s bureaucracy, but in many ways it is no worse than that of any other country.

Depending on where you are coming from, there will be a little (or a lot) of cultural adjustment, and getting used to Swiss ways may take a while.

READ MORE: Five Swiss laws that foreign residents are bound to break

But when it comes to paperwork, the process is pretty straightforward. Here is what you will need.

Visa and work / residence permit

By the time you arrive, you will already have these documents, issued to you on the basis of your employment / residence conditions.

The criteria for entry into Switzerland is different (and simpler) for residents of EU / EFTA countries than for those living outside Europe.

But once you are granted the right to live and work here, will need the same kind of paperwork to live in Switzerland, irrespective of whether you are from the EU or a third state.

READ MORE: Golden visas: Everything you need to know about ‘buying’ Swiss residency

Proof of residency

In many instances while residing in Switzerland you will be asked to show where you live (Wohnsitzbescheinigungen/ Attestation de domicile / certificati di residenza).

When you move into your house or apartment, you will need to register with your local commune within 14 days of arrival. The office in charge of registrations is called Einwohnerkontrolle / Contrôle des habitants/ Controllo abitanti.

To do so, you will need to show a passport of ID card for each member of the family, the work or residency permit, and your lease contract. 

You can then receive the Wohnsitzbescheinigungen/ Attestation de domicile / certificati di residenza.

This process must be repeated every time you move to another residence or commune.

Health insurance

Health insurance is compulsory in Switzerland and you must purchase a policy for each family member within three months of your arrival.

You can take out insurance with an authorised health insurance company of your choice.

While complementary policies are optional, you have to buy the basic one, which is the same for everyone in terms of coverage regardless of the insurer.

After the period of three months, you will receive a letter from your local authorities asking you to provide details of your, and your family’s, policies.

If you don’t have any, the canton will purchase insurance for you and send you a bill – which you must pay.

READ MORE: Should you buy supplemental health insurance in Switzerland?

Driver’s license

You are permitted to use your old license in Switzerland for 12 months. After this period, you must exchange it for a Swiss one, which can be done in a motor vehicles office closest to your place of residence.

To do this you must present an application form, which can be downloaded from the office’s website, original license ( valid at the time of exchange), residence permit, a colour passport-size photo, and a certificate from an ophthalmologist attesting that you have good vision.

These are the four documents you will need to live in Switzerland. There are also some other ones which depend on your personal circumstances.

Animals

If you bring your pet to Switzerland with you, you will need to have the pet’s identification (microchip), pet ID card, valid certificate of vaccinations, and blood test.

More information on bringing pets to Switzerland, and what conditions you should be aware of, can be found here.

Travel card

Chances are that at one time or another you will use Switzerland’s excellent public transportation network. As everything else in Switzerland, this can be quite expensive, so it is a good idea to purchase travel cards enabling to buy tickets at a discount.

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For members

LEARNING FRENCH

How to talk email, websites, social media and phone numbers in Swiss French

It's a very common experience to have to give out your phone number or email address in Switzerland, or take down the address of a website, so here's how to do this if you're in the French-speaking part of the country.

How to talk email, websites, social media and phone numbers in Swiss French

The correct names for punctuation marks used to be fairly low down on any French-learner’s list, but these days they are vital whenever you need to explain an email address, website or social media account.

Likewise if you want to talk about websites, or social media posts, there are some things that you need to know. 

Punctuation

Obviously punctuation points have their own names, and making sure you get the periods, dashes and underscores correct is vital to giving out account details. 

Full stop/period . point. Pronounced pwan, this is most commonly heard for Swiss websites or email addresses which end in. ch (pronounced pwan ce ash).

If you have a site that ends in .com you say ‘com’ as a word just as you would in English – pwan com.

At symbol @ Arobase – so for example the email address [email protected] would be jean pwan dupont arobas bluewin pwan ce ash.

Ampersand/and symbol & esperluette

Dash – tiret

Underscore _ tiret bas 

Forward slash / barre oblique

Upper case/capital lettersMajuscule (or lettre majuscule)

Lower caseminiscule

The following punctuation points are less common in email or web addresses, but worth knowing anyway:

Comma , virgule. In French a decimal point is indicated with a comma so two and a half would be 2,5 (deux virgule cinq)

Exclamation mark ! point d’exclamation – when you are writing in French you always leave a space between the final letter of the word and the exclamation mark – comme ça !

Question mark ? point d’interrogation – likewise, leave a space between the final character and a question mark 

Brackets/parentheses ( ) parenthèse

Quotation marks « » guillemets 

Numbers

If you need to give your phone number out, the key thing to know is that Swiss-French people pair the numbers in a phone number when speaking.

So say your number is 079 345 6780, in French you would say zero septante-neuf, trois-cents quarante-cinq, soixante-sept, huitante (zero seventy-nine, three hundred forty-five, sixty-seven, eighty ).

Mobile numbers in Switzerland  begin with 079 or 078 (zero septante-neuf or zero septante-huit).

Social media

If you want to give out your Twitter or Instagram handle, the chances are you might need to know some punctuation terms as described above.

Otherwise the good news is that a lot of English-language social media terms are used in Switzerland too.

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have the same names in Switzerland and have entered the language in other ways too, for example you might describe your dinner as très instagrammable – ie it’s photogenic and would look good on Instagram.

On Twitter you can suivre (follow), aimer (like) or retweet (take a wild guess). You’ll often hear the English words for these terms too, though pronounced with a French accent.

There is a French translation for hashtag – it’s dièse mot, but in reality hashtag is also very widely used.

Tech is one of those areas where new concepts come along so quickly that the English terms often get embedded into everyday use before the French-speakers can think up an alternative.

READ MORE: French-speaking Switzerland: Seven life hacks that will make you feel like a local

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